Driven! The 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander Crossover SUV

The 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander first drive we’ve just completed proves the new crossover SUV is the most modern and segment-competitive product to wear the triple-diamond crest in at least 15 years. It’s not perfect—far from it—but if the slow resuscitation of Mitsubishi Motors in the U.S. is ever going to happen, it will be on the backs of solid SUVs like the new Outlander, and not small sports coupes and rally specials. We’re sorry to say it, but it’s time to move on, Evo fans.

Prior to Nissan taking a controlling stake in the brand back in 2016, its Japanese compatriot appeared content to sit on the fringes of the U.S. market, not bothering to chase competitors such as Honda, Toyota, or, yes, Nissan, for a larger slice of the pie than it already had on its plate. But once Nissan arrived on the scene, it was reasonable to expect the fruits of such a union would slowly lift Mitsubishi from its doldrums. Nissan has gone through its own fair share of shakeups, setbacks, and slumps in the past five years, but as that company continues its own stabilization, the relationship between the two automakers should strengthen even further.

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander: What’s Underneath

The 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander is our best barometer for this. Underneath the new Outlander’s bold, chrome-laden exterior rest the bones of the current-generation Nissan Rogue. Mitsubishi reps were quick with their language when describing the development process behind the car, stating that while the development of the two vehicles began together within “the alliance,” the two companies eventually diverged to spin their own products from the shared platform.

We believe them—but after a few hours in the new 2022 Outlander, we also believe there is a significant amount of Rogue in the Outlander. That’s a good thing, though, as while we know Mitsubishi won’t trumpet the SUV’s Rogue roots, the new-for-2021 Nissan is itself a vast improvement on its predecessor. There are enough fundamental differences, too, between the two SUVs to render them different products. Chief among them is the Outlander’s three-row, seven-seat configuration not shared by the Rogue, a layout rare among compact and slightly larger tweener SUVs.

This Mitsubishi is just such a tweener. It’s longer, wider, and taller than the Rogue, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V, but smaller than vehicles in the segment a step up. It’s bigger than the outgoing Outlander, too, with an additional 2.0 inches of width and 1.5 inches of height. The wheelbase gains another 1.4 inches, contributing to a legroom stretch of 1.0 inch in front and 1.1 inches in the rear.

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander: Only One Powertrain—For Now

For now, the new Outlander’s sole powertrain configuration is the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Nissan PR25DD I-4, offering up a square 181 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque through a CVT with eight simulated forward gears. Front-wheel drive is standard, though Mitsubishi’s proprietary S-AWC all-wheel-drive system is available. Mitsubishi’s standout model of late was the plug-in variant of the Outlander, the bestselling plug-in in the world, and Mitsu reps have already confirmed the future arrival of an Outlander PHEV. After some extended seat time in the 2022 Outlander through the hills and highways of Orange County, California, we reckon the PHEV is the one to wait for if you’re eco-minded or you’re coming from something with more than 200 hp.

The 181 horses are adequate for pulling the Outlander’s almost two-ton bulk around, but only just. Zero to 60 mph likely falls somewhere in the 8.5-second range when unladen—of course, we won’t know the actual time until we get an example to the test track—but by their very nature, crossover SUVs frequently haul family, friends, dogs, furniture, mulch, luggage, tires, bikes, and whatever. Many people make purchases based on a vehicle’s ultimate potential, whether it be a truck, sports car, or SUV, but the dearth of power means there will be a fair share of 2022 Mitsubishi Outlanders who hit their ultimate accelerative potential rather quickly, struggling around at full capacity.

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander: Dynamic Standout

During this drive, it was just us by our lonesome in a loaded SEL S-AWC-model test vehicle. The CVT is as smooth and seamless in operation as any other similar transmission, but as with many other CVT-equipped powertrains, the experience is tarnished by the CVT’s insistence on holding the four-cylinder at high rpm. It casts a spotlight on the poorly dampened engine sound, which has an echoing mechanical quality when you put the gas pedal to the floor. With only 181 hp and a whole load to haul around, you’re going to floor it often.

Things are better in terms of handling and chassis control, which are certainly above average; we were skeptical when Mitsubishi’s planned route put us on one of Orange County’s more popular canyon roads, but after a few minutes on Ortega Highway, we were pleasantly surprised. The Outlander is no Mazda CX-5, but it sliced across the squiggly pavement with poise far beyond the requisite. Body lean was present but not disastrous, and while the steering doesn’t have much feel, it’s responsive and light.

A modern platform does wonders for an old nameplate. Much of the hardware underneath the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander’s skin is lighter and stiffer than the old SUV’s, particularly with regard to the suspension. The brakes are bigger, too, a welcome addition to a car that’s only grown in size. And after we settled down and started driving the Outlander like a rational person, the ride was comfortable and well-damped, though we would have appreciated a bit more isolation from the smallest road imperfections.

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

The interior is by far and away the most impressive aspect of this generational shift. Compared to the egregiously outmoded interior duds of the prior Outlander, this might as well be a Rolls-Royce Cullinan; well, maybe a Lexus, at least. The majority of plastics, switchgear, leather, stitching, and touchpoints are all absolutely on-par with Toyota, Subaru, and—of course—Nissan.

It’s a massive visual improvement as well. All of the late 2000s-era aesthetic was purged in the transition to this new Outlander, making way for a clean and modern bi-level horizontal theme that can be had with a handsome, visually unbroken air-vent design on the center dash. Dig deep into the trim levels and you’ll come away with an armful of couture stuff like quilted leather surfaces and real aluminum trim.

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander: A Significant Upgrade

Overall, our loaded test example was a pleasant place to spend a few traffic-locked hours. Most of the hardware, including the HVAC controls, infotainment display screens, and terrain selector are either directly shared with the Rogue or re-skinned versions of the same. In the latter case, Mitsubishi added its own differentiating knurled texture and trim touches, including to the bulky terrain selector, where an impressive range of drive modes are available, including Tarmac (Sport), Gravel, Snow, and Mud, aside from the standard Normal and Eco modes. We used the sport-minded Tarmac mode for the twistier sections of our drive, noting a change in transmission programming and throttle sensitivity.

If the old Outlander was threadbare, the new SUV is a relative cornucopia of tech toys. The most significant improvement is the standard 8.0-inch center infotainment display with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though we spent our time with the optional 9.0-inch unit. Stick with the 8.0-inch screen, and the instrument panel wedges a 7.0-inch display between two traditional analog gauges. In contrast, the 9.0-inch infotainment screen also adds a fetching 12.3-inch configurable digital gauge cluster and an available head-up display. Sharp stuff.

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander: Impressive Infotainment

These aren’t half-baked features, either. Mitsubishi’s proprietary infotainment system is quick to respond and mostly easy to navigate, as is the configurable digital gauge display. It does a flattering imitation of Audi’s MMI system, with a choice of different views and data displays. Other optional finery includes wireless smartphone charging, panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, and a 10-speaker Bose sound system. This was space-age stuff to the Outlander of yore.

This coddling extends to the rear passengers, too. If you’re going to haul folks around frequently, spring for the optional heated outboard second-row seats that also bring USB and USB-C ports and retractable sunscreens for the windows. Three-zone climate control is also a first for Mitsubishi, so don’t expect to hear much grousing from the backseat drivers, at least not about their temperature.

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander: Emergency Use Only

Those in the, er, back-back seat—the third row—may whine about room. It’s strictly for “emergencies” like a 10-minute drive to a family dinner or a last-minute pick up from soccer practice. Even small kids may struggle to get comfortable in the two-seat jump-row, but it should prove useful in a pinch and, as mentioned, there are very, very few places to get a third row in this segment. The third row stows when not in use, as well, to give the full benefit of the area behind the second row, though we’re not privy to interior storage dimensions just yet aside from the 78.3 cubic feet available with the two rearmost rows folded. There are plenty of second-row configurations, including a 40/20/40 split that allows for folding of each individual seat.

The 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander is a highly competitive effort by an automaker that’s become easy to count out, and ignore. This new SUV is thoroughly modern, comfortable, nice to drive, well equipped, smartly packaged, and nicely priced. A base front-wheel-drive Outlander will set you back $26,990, with entry pricing ranging to $36,445 for the top-of-the-line SEL AWD w/ Touring package, at a time when the average new car changes hands for around $40,000. So far, so good on Mitsubishi’s Nissan partnership—now we wait to see what fruit it bears next.

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander Pros:

  • Outrageously improved interior
  • Dynamically impressive
  • Sharp infotainment and digital display
  • A massive overall improvement over the previous model

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander Cons:

  • Only one engine choice available
  • Relatively underpowered
  • Third-row seating is for emergency use only
2022 Mitsubishi Outlander Specifications
BASE PRICE $26,990-$34,940
LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.5L/181-hp/181-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto
CURB WEIGHT 3,600-3,800 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 106.5 in
L x W x H 185.4 x 74.7 x 68.7-68.8 in
0-60 MPH 8.5 sec (est)
EPA FUEL ECON 24/30-31/26-27 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 140/109-112 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.73-0.74 lb/mile (est)
ON SALE Now

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